Implications of the humiliating defeat on Colombo regime

The conduct of Sri Lanka’s maiden Northern Provincial Council elections and the landslide electoral victory of the major Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have to be factually assessed and correctly understood, considering inevitably the intransigent ground politico-military realities.

Desperately wanting to show the world, ideally before the upcoming CHOGM summit that it has restored democracy in the former war zones, the war-rhetoric regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa made full use of the state resources to ensure a political victory in the former LTTE strongholds. But against all odds and military intimidations, the resilient Tamil people resolutely voted the TNA to secure the maiden administration of the council, although they do not believe that this unit of devolution would solve their grievances and political aspirations.

Licking it wounds resulting from the humiliating defeat in the hands of the Tamil people from the war-ravaged Northern Jaffna and Wanni districts, the Rajapaksa regime has now reactivated its vicious propaganda machinery both state and private to project the TNA’s victory, on the one hand, as having demonstrated the “functioning of democracy” in the former war zones and on the other that it is a referendum for a separate state, which the LTTE fought militarily.   

Within hours after the TNA’s victory, several ready-made articles have already sprung up in government and pro-government websites, giving different interpretations and hardline projections, slandering some candidates individually and the party as a whole.

Speaking to the people on the ground show that the Tamil speaking people voted for the TNA defying all odds and threats, not because they fully support the political manoeuvring of the TNA or that they would find a lasting political solutions acceptable to the Tamils, but because they wanted to send a very strong message to the Rajapaksa regime.

“The message is that the Tamils would always stand resolute to fight for their just political aspirations and that they have been completely alienated by the Southern Sinhala rulers,” said a human rights activist in Manipay, Jaffna.

“We are fully aware that the provincial council system is a useless set up even with its full powers. It was first introduced in 1987 and the Tamil leaders have been rejecting it right throughout. Even TNA leader Sampanthan himself once described as ‘corpse’,  13th Amendment to the constitution, which stipulates the extent of powers that should be devolved to the provinces from the centre. But why we voted for the TNA was to send a strong message to the repressive regime that all what we, the Eelam Tamils, want is to live with dignity and identity,” he told JDS on condition of anonymity for obvious reasons.

A Jaffna University academic said that the Tamils in the North voted for the TNA “to ensure this government and its proxy paramilitary outfits are defeated and to tell the powerful international community that the Tamils “need a dignified political solution to the national question, based on our language and cultural identities”.

“We have paid the bigger prices for this. No amount of development can equate to living in dignity. This cannot be compromised under any circumstances,” he said, adding in a semi-optimistic note that the TNA cannot afford to forget the bloody past, if it works to product and protect a dignified future for the Tamils.

He said that the Tamils cleverly used the opportunity to showcase their resilience and resolve for a just political solution.

“We have no faith in the provincial council system. It is too little too late. No acceptable and durable solution can be found within the existing unitary structure of the state. What has happened during the election campaign and on the eve of the election and after the election have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Sri Lanka is far from a functioning democracy,” he said.

A mother of four, who whose son 36-old son has been missing since the end of the war, said that thousands of people here “are still waiting to know the whereabouts of the loved ones who were made to disappear during and after the war while several thousands of people are still waiting to be resettled in their own lands, even four years after the end of the war”.

“The government is busy building up bridges, hotels and laying new roads. But the communities remain divided more than ever before. It is also working hard on drastically altering ethnic demographically of the north and the east by forced Sinhala settlements and erecting Buddhist temples. This is in addition to expanding its permanent military bases and cantonments. Holding any election at this juncture aiming to hoodwink the international community that - democracy has been restored in the war-ravaged regions - is nothing but an act of proverbial adding insult to the injury,” she said.

She expressed sincere hope that newly elected TNA members like Ananthi Sasitharan (wife of Elilan, the LTTE’s former political wing head for Trincomalee) would continue to work on tracing the missing loved ones.

Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the TNA would speak as loudly and clearly as did by those who voted for them to register an unprecedented electoral victory.

© JDS 


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.